It has been almost 10 years since WB Games Montreal has released any games. Their long-awaited return comes at the hands of Gotham Knights. In partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Gotham Knights explores a time after Batman and is centred around his four proteges, Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, and Red Hood. As a casual fan of DC Comics, I was curious to see if I would enjoy this new addition to the DC gaming franchise.
As mentioned, the game is set after the death of Bruce Wayne/Batman. The game begins with an epic cinematic sequence with a battle between Ra’s al Ghul and Batman that takes place within the Batcave. Seeing no way to win, Batman sacrifices himself by destroying the Batcave with himself and Ra’s al Ghul, killing them both. Bruce Wayne’s death triggered a contingency plan that summoned the four heroes and leaves them with an unsolved case. In need of a new base of operations and with the assistance of Alfred Pennyworth, the band of heroes’ head to an old safehouse in the Union Station Clock Tower known as The Belfry. With a new base and a range of clues left behind, the team set out to solve the mystery and watch over Gotham to protect the city from crime.
During the opening sequences, you get to pick a character to play. Out of the four, I chose Nightwing to start with and headed out on my first mission. As I learnt the controls and the fighting mechanics, I was instantly reminded of the mechanics from Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man, however, they felt janky and not as refined. Whilst you can link together combat combos, I found myself just mashing square and dodging with circle with no sense of fluidity in the combat controls. You cannot even jump whilst in combat! Each enemy does drop collectibles once they have been defeated. These range from health replenishment to crafting materials.
Like most open world style games, there is a main narrative that needs to be followed to complete the story. And whilst I didn’t finish it entirely before writing, I got the sense that the core mission was weak. I found myself running around aimlessly smashing the AR button on the D-Pad. Also, who maps the main button for this on the D-Pad, forcing you to stop movement to use it? I found this extremely frustrating, especially when I was out roaming the city searching for crime.
That brings me to the next point, the side missions, and collectibles. There is so much to do outside of the main narrative that I feel the developers were trying to make up for the lack of story by padding it out with side quests.
Navigating Gotham City isn’t all that fun either. The grapple mechanic again feels like a direct rip-off from Spider-Man and allows you to traverse the rooftops by spamming L1, jumping into the air and spamming L1 again. I was unable to work out how to aim the grapple whilst moving either. I would be mid-flight to the light pole I grappled to and the next I am ascending to a rooftop that wasn’t even in my field of view.
You can also summon the Batcycle that just appears on the road in front of you. This made travelling from one side of the map to the other a little less painful. And whilst we are on the subject of maps, there is no mini map, only a compass style point of interest dial at the top of the HUD. I have played several games with this sort of directional aide, but for Gotham Knights, I would have much preferred a mini map. I was opening the map all the time to get my bearings.
Yes, there is a lot that I disliked about Gotham Knights, so is there anything good? Depends on what you are looking for, really. There is a hell of a lot of lore that you can read and collect throughout your night patrols, including emails that you receive to your device. Some are hints and lore to accompany the missions, and some are funny like one from Dick Grayson complaining to the team that someone stole his pizza.
There is a huge database that continues to grow as you encounter villains and find collectibles as you play. It is a great way to check back on how to do something or even revisit lore of closed case files. There are challenges to complete and gear that you can craft with the materials you collect whilst on patrol. The visuals are not stunning, but passable as a dark and dreary Gotham City. The music, sound design, and voice acting are fine, but it’s not enough to save this game.
Whilst I mainly played as Nightwing/Dick Grayson, you can switch to any of the four heroes whilst you are at The Belfry. The ability to do this changes up the otherwise stagnate story line, providing a different perspective with the cut scenes and dialogue needing to pivot each time you switch characters. I guess if you really enjoy this game, it will add longevity as you could play it over and over from multiple points of view.
Sadly, this is one game I do not think I will be playing much more of, if at all again. The combat mechanics are the biggest let down and when your main objective is to fight bad guys, I just can’t bring myself to pick up that controller again.
Even the multiplayer co-op aspect of this game caught me by surprise with some random joining my game and started abusing me. That was one setting I quickly turned off. Didn’t take me long before I turned the game off all together.
For the diehard Batman and DC fans, perhaps Gotham Knights may be worth a go, but for me, it is a hard pass.
If you want to give this game a shot, Gotham Knights is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and Microsoft Windows (PC).
A press key was provided for Gotham Knights on PlayStation 5 for the purpose of this review.